July 5, 2013

Without vs. Within

Part 3 of "Follow Me" Series now online

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Readings at Mass: Friday of 13th Week of Ordinary Time

> Genesis 23:1-4,19; 24:1-8,62-67
Psalm 106:1b-2,2-4a,4b-5

Two words: "follow me". That's it ... two words ... all said in a matter of mere seconds ... and everything in Matthew's life changed. I find today's Gospel reading fascinating.

It was an ordinary day. Matthew got up in the morning. He went through his familiar routine: He ate breakfast, said good-bye to his family, and caught up on the local musings as he walked to work.

It was an ordinary day. Matthew sat at his tax collection post. He listened to the lude conversations around him. He bartered, he swindled, he cheated.

It was an ordinary day. Matthew's mind drifted to other things. He sat there ... unhappy ... stuck ... yearning for more. He asked himself, "Is there more to life than this?"

Soon, the buzz reaches Matthew's office: Jesus is in town. Matthew had heard about Jesus. He heard that Jesus preached a radical mercy and forgiveness. He heard that Jesus actually ate with sinners. He heard that lives had been changed and sinners had been transformed.

Then ... it happened ... somewhat all of a sudden ... just when Matthew was asking, "Is there more to life than this?" ... Jesus walks by, Jesus stops. Jesus looks Matthew in the eye and says two simple words: "Follow me." And, in some unthinkable way, Matthew leaves it all ... without hesitation ... he just leaves. Matthew was hungry for more.

Welcome to July 5th. We find ourselves sandwiched between the holiday of yesterday and the weekend of tomorrow. Yesterday we celebrated our freedom, yet today will be the ultimate litmus test of how interiorly free we really are. Today, America goes back to work; however, I wonder how many really want to. I wonder how many wish they were off today. I wonder how many silently grieve today as they have to go back to their "customs post." I wonder how many Americans, just like Matthew, will sit in traffic or the long lines at Starbucks or look at the clock more frequently and ask: "Is there more to life than this?"

It's important to befriend the silent stirrings on July 5th. There, deep within, we will find the most interesting conversation of the day. Deep within, in our thoughts that often escape us, God is speaking to us. Deep within, whether we too are hungry for more or are content with our lives as they are, we will find the still, small voice of God.

As Saint Augustine chronicles his conversion he writes: "Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was without, and it was there that I searched for you. ... You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. ... I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace."

Saint Augustine tells us that his whole life was focused without: his entire focus of life was on things outside of him > the "world", the pursuit of pleasure, the relentless thirst for "more". Yet, God was within. Nudging at his heart ... inviting Augustine into the very peace he longed for. It was within Augustine that he found God speaking to him. Fr. Timothy Gallagher, O.M.V. is famous for asking us: "When you look at the culture you and I live in, do you think most people live within or without?"

What would have happened if Augustine would not have paid attention to the stirrings within him? What would have happened if Matthew would not have paid attention to the longings "for more" within him? What would have happened in my life if I would have not listened to the voice of God within me?

How do you feel at going back to the "real world" on this July 5th? What's stirring within?

When you look at Augustine's words, ask yourself: do you live more within or without? When you look at Matthew's conversion, ask yourself: are you hungry "for more" out of life?

Slow down today. Turn off the radio. Don't turn on the TV. Shut off the computer. Shhhhhhhh ... listen ... within ... how is God calling you?

Deep within ... very deep within ... what do you really want?

© Fr. Mark Toups, 2013


Today, the 169 seminarians in the Seminarians Summer Program are off for the holiday weekend. They will return to campus Sunday afternoon. Monday they begin a new course on the Liturgy.

The 22 priests and seminarians here for the Spiritual Exercises are on day 7 of the 30-day retreat.


"In the decisive moments of our lives, but on closer inspection in every moment, we are faced with a choice: do we want to follow the 'I' or God? Do we want to seek out selfish interests or the true Good, that which is truly good?"
― Angelus Address, February 17, 2013